Keeping students actively engaged in the classroom can seem like an uphill battle, so Cengage Learning asked thousands of college students and instructors what most encourages student engagement. Fortunately, the most popular responses consist of simple activities and tips to keep in mind. We asked instructors to tell us the specific activities and strategies that get their students most engaged with class. We also asked students to write and tell us what makes classes most interesting. You may be surprised where students and instructors agree!

College student engagement improves with…

1.)  Relevant, interesting, or fun topics

A trending concept was to ensure the content is as relevant to students’ lives as possible. One instructor revealed that “they have to respond or comment on real life scenarios. They seem to open up and see the relevance to what we just learned.” If a topic does not easily lend itself to modern student interests, find a unique way to make the topic fun, or simply let your own enthusiasm show. Another instructor suggests using “multimedia presentations and other techniques in addition to lecture” to keep students engaged.

2.)  Group work

A top response from both instructors and students recommended group work, projects, or activities. One instructor from our survey shared that students are most engaged when “we are role playing, working on group tasks and applying nontraditional teaching tools to course content.” On the other hand, many students still struggle with group work due to uneven distribution of responsibilities. To combat this, consider focusing group work to smaller in-class activities that students can use as a stepping stone to their own deeper analysis for later assignments.

3.)  Comfortable setting for discussion

According to instructors and students alike, students are also more engaged in smaller or more intimate classrooms. Classes are most interesting when “the instructor creates an environment where the students feel comfortable and safe to express his or her opinion and ask questions,” said one student. If your course garners high enrollment, consider taking steps to create a more intimate discussion setting for your students. One way to achieve this is by temporarily breaking out into smaller groups, then having groups report on their discussions and findings to the class.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing even more insights from our survey that reveal how instructors around the country foster engagement in their classrooms. We’ll also be sharing hints from the students themselves on what keeps them interested in their coursework.

What trends do you see in your classroom when it comes to fostering engagement with your students? Share your thoughts in the comments below.